Born in Belgium, Pierre Chenal made a name as a film noir director in France during the thirties. A notable anticipation: his film Le Dernier Tournant (1939) was the first adaptation of James M. Cain's The Postman Always Rings Twice; the first American version by Tay Garnett was made in 1946. A version by Luchino Visconti (Ossessione) where Cain gets no credit was released in 1943.
Chenal was Jewish and was forced to flee occupied France in 1942. He found refuge in Argentina, where his credentials allowed him to find work almost immediately as a director. His first Argentine film was Todo un Hombre (A Real Man), based on a novella by Basque Spanish writer Miguel de Unamuno published in Buenos Aires.
Unamuno was primarily a philosopher and essayist, and his output as a novelist is secondary; in particular, this novella is impossibly melodramatic. The script unfortunately accentuates the melodrama to the point of soap opera and beyond, and is written in generic Spanish with no relation with the Spanish spoken in Argentina in 1942. The actors do their best but their delivery is stilted and unnatural (perhaps Chenal had problems directing actors in Spanish, with which language he was not totally familiar). The music is overly emphatic and obtrusive. Production values are good (maybe too good; everybody except "the people" seems to live in spectacular overdecorated palaces) and Chenal's direction shows his mastery of the medium, but the movie does not rise to the level of his French work. Unamuno's novella was made into a film again by Spanish director Rafael Gil in 1971, but the result is even less satisfactory. One suspects that, short of drastic rewriting, Unamuno's story is simply not movie material.
Chenal went to direct three more movies in Argentina (if one doesn't Count Native Son, filmed in Argentina in 1951 with mostly American actors) and returned to Europe after the war. His post-war work did not manage to achieve the level of his French films of the thirties.
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